Under terms of the deal, that springboards the South Korean firm into the European market for the first time, the Asian company will purchase a 100 per cent stake in privately-held Belgian boxed-chocolate firm which competes with Switzerland's Lindt chocolate and Italy's Ferrero Rocher. "Our acquisition of Guylian makes our entry into the European premium chocolate market and is an important milestone in Lotte's development as a truly global group," said Sang-Hoo Kim, president of Lotte Confectionery. An ambitious firm that posted net revenues of €23bn in 2007, Lotte Confectionery recently signed-off on a deal to buy Japanese bakery firm Ginza Cozy Corner for €123.6m. And last year, the South Korean company, that started out over 30 years ago with a 'tiny pack of chewing gum', created a €50 million venture with Hershey to jointly operate a chocolate factory near Shanghai, China. The market for premium chocolate, particularly the dark variety, is enjoying an upward shift in sales on the back of mushrooming consumer desire for a slice of luxury, that sees chocolate aficionados buying less, but splashing out on more premium varieties when they do make a purchase. "Even though people are still cutting back on the amount of chocolate they eat, sales in the two years to 2007 saw no less than a 10 per cent increase in value in the UK," states a recent report from market analysts Mintel.
Sales in the UK alone for dark chocolate hit €106m in 2007, almost doubling - by 96 per cent - between 2005 and 2007.